Napier, Hawkes Bay through the Wairarapa to Wellington
02.19.2009 - 02.20.2009 70 °F
It was raining when we left Wellington for the South Island on our trip here 3 years ago..........and it's still raining!
We left Napier yesterday morning and headed through sheep stations, dairy farms, vineyards and orchards through small county towns. We left the interstate and took the road less traveled several times during the day and were rewarded with two interesting stops.
The first is a town called Norsewood which is located in the heart of what was once the dense and towering forest known as the Seventy Mile Bush. The town was established in 1872, with the arrival of a total of 752 mostly Norwegian immigrants. Most of these people became Norsewood's pioneer settlers.
This small, charming and tidy town still retains a predominantly Scandinavian feel and is sprinkled with museums, trolls at each street corner, Nordic buildings and several memorials.
The second is a town further south called Featherston.
The original town grew very slowly until the arrival of the railway in 1878. This was a major feat because of the steep Rimutaka Ranges which had to be crossed. The famous Fell Engines, using horizontal wheels gripping a raised centre rail, were needed on the Wairarapa side of the range, and a small village was constructed at Cross Creek to service the railway. Over 100 people lived there but with no shops provided, Featherston businesses benefited. The price of land doubled overnight, as Wellington was now only a few hours away.
Nowadays, Featherston's main claim to fame is The Fell Engine Museum, which houses the last of the locomotives that made the 1 in 5 grade climb on three rails over the Rimutaka Incline from 1890 until 1955 when a tunnel was built.
We were fortunate to meet with Cliff Lee, one of the men who painstakingly restored the only existing Fell Engine in the world. He was born and raised in Featherstone and is one of the last surviving employees of the line. He recently wrote a book about the history of the rail line and the locomotives which we purchased which he signed for us.
We then headed toward windy, wet Wellington. We're staying in the Cuba neighborhood of Wellington which hosts an annual street festival, The Cuba Street Carnival. It happens to be this weekend so we'll be right in the midst of dancing, music and street performances. Hopefully the pouring rain will stop although we doubt that will keep people away.
We certainly seem to be timing things right as far as festivals and celebrations - more luck than planning!
Next excursion is our crossing to the South Island for a week. Stay tuned.
Trevor & Rebecca
Did you know?
No matter where you are in New Zealand, you are located less than 128 kilometers from the ocean.